The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church, known to some as Mormon Fundamentalists) is one of the largest fundamentalist denominations and one of the largest organizations in the United States whose members practice polygamy. The FLDS Church emerged in the early twentieth century when its founding members left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The split occurred largely because of the LDS Church's suspension of the practice of polygamy and its decision to excommunicate its members who would continue the practice.
The FLDS Church is estimated to have 6,000 - 10,000 members residing in the sister cities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona; Eldorado, Texas; Westcliffe, Colorado; Mancos, Colorado; Creston and Bountiful, British Columbia; and Pringle, South Dakota. There also developing communities near Benjamín Hill, Sonora (south of Nogales in the state of Sonora) and Ensenada, Baja California (south of Tijuana).
The FLDS Church headquarters were originally located in what was then known as Short Creek, Arizona, on the southern border of Utah. The settlement eventually expanded into Utah and became incorporated as the twin municipalities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. Since 2004, however, news reports have suggested a possible shift of the church's headquarters to Eldorado, Texas, where a temple has been built by FLDS Church members.
From 2007–2011 the leadership of the FLDS Church was unclear. On November 20, 2007, after the conviction of Warren Jeffs, attorneys for Jeffs released the following statement: "Mr. Jeffs resigned as President of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Inc." This statement does not address his position as prophet of the church, but merely addressed his resignation from his fiduciary post as president of the corporation belonging to the FLDS Church. According to a Salt Lake Tribune telephone transcript, there is evidence that, when incarcerated, Warren Jeffs made statements naming William E. Jessop, a former first counselor, as his successor or, alternatively, that Jeffs had told Jessop on January 24, 2007 that he had never been the rightful leader of the FLDS. Many press accounts have suggested that Merril Jessop, who has been leading the Eldorado, Texas compound, is the de facto leader of the church. Additionally on January 9, 2010 documents filed with the Utah Department of Commerce name Wendell L. Nielsen as the president of the sect. The FLDS incorporation charter does not require the church president to be its Prophet. However, traditionally the President of the FLDS church was also the religious head. FLDS leaders have refused to clarify who is considered the Prophet of the FLDS church. To add additional confusion to the issue of succession, a 2012 CNN documentary insists that Jeffs still leads the church from prison.
Prior to November 20, 2007, the church was being led by Warren Jeffs, who succeeded his father, Rulon Jeffs, in 2002. For nearly two years, Warren Jeffs had been wanted on sex-crimes charges. From May 2006 until his arrest in August 2006, he was on the FBI's Ten Most-Wanted List. On September 25, 2007, Jeffs was found guilty of two counts of being an accomplice to rape and was sentenced to ten years to life in prison. This conviction was later overturned. On January 28, 2011, Jeffs again asserted his leadership of the denomination.
Warren Jeffs has since been sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years along with a $10,000 fine after his conviction on aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault charges.
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... The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) is estimated to consist of 6000 to 8000 members ... A succession crisis has been brewing in the church since 2002, when Warren Jeffs, recently convicted of accessory to rape and sentenced to life in prison, became president of the ... There has been extensive litigation regarding the church for some time, as property rights of disaffected members are weighed against the decisions of church leaders who ...
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